Saturday, 7 April 2012

Words with Caroline Gerardo

Thanks to author & poet Caroline Gerardo for this interview

“Dreams are always just ahead. 
Without that horizon of opportunity 
always moving away, we slow our creativity.”

What is your day job or are you lucky enough to write for a living?

I worked in financial services and branding. I am also a single mother with 100% responsibility. I am working with a hi-tech company on a software application as a day job. I worked a 70-hour work week for Washington Mutual until they went bankrupt. Now in mid-life, I am blessed to be able to work a 40-hour day job and spend 60 hours writing.

I went to undergraduate school at Scripps College (BA), and had a dual major in Art and Literature, then later a MFA at Claremont Graduate University. Soon after I had children it became apparent that I would be the sole provider. Being creative, writing and making art has always been in my daily life, but the focus was on survival.

What books have you written so far?

My last novel, The Lucky Boy, is in print and ebook format – it was released on 1/2/2012. Toxic Assets was released in February 2011. Short Fiction was published in 10 magazines in 2011.

What works in progress do you have?

Eco Terrorist (working title) – first draft completed, allowing it to sit a while. It is a story about a woman, retired from MI5, who has moved to Wyoming to get away from her past. She ends up tracking terrorists who are poisoning water sources. It is a thriller; environmental about a place I love and water as a resource of the last frontier. I’m also working on a poetry anthology that involves digital video, photography, poetry and flash fiction titled The Last Willow Flycatcher.

How long did it take you to write your book/s?

About a year.

Do you write linear, or jump back and forth? Do you plan or write by the seat of your pants?

I do a combination of methods. I write an outline, use a storyboard, use visual art, photography and video to seed the story, but then when I write the first draft I don’t know which ending or where the characters will lead me. I write a first draft while I have other smaller projects to keep me on my toes, and stave off boredom. Although I become enthralled by the story, it is work to keep returning daily when there are distractions. These have included my son’s football game, my mother being gravely ill this past year and she lived with us for five weeks, the water heater blowing and flooding the house – you know, all the realities we take in our stride. I return to my system and carry on.

Why do you write?

I want to share stories about my time in this world.

How long have you been writing?

All my life. I blogged for over ten years and I’ve kept journals all my life. I have been doing performance poetry for the past twenty years. I also am a painter, photographer and filmmaker.

Where and when do you write? ­ Do you have set times?

I’m up every day at 5.15, with a coffee at the kitchen table. I am organised. I work on short posts at night and the long-form novel in the morning when I am sharp. I take a break to take my son to school. From 8-12, I will work four hours again with a ten-minute break to stretch. I write seven days a week. I work on writing eight hours a day.

Which character from your books do you like most / are most like?

Katherine McVeigh in Toxic Assets is modelled on myself when I worked in banking.
In my last book, The Lucky Boy, I fell in love with the troubled dichotomous boy, Seth. He’s a liar, a thief and a criminal who wants to connect, find love and forgiveness.

What/who inspired you to write and still inspires you?

I love the solitary process of making notes of ideas, gathering scenes in my mind and making these worlds real to others. Inspiration does not come from a person; it burns in your oesophagus. Only slamming the printed manuscript on the table can quell the fire.

What do you think is the ideal recipe for a good novel or story?

I am not interested in the three-act novel. If I can draw a simple graph of the story, it’s pretty dull. I enjoy many genres of novel. I think the best quality I could ask from a novelist is ‘caring’. By this, I mean the writer wants to give me something, tell me something, share something – it can be beautiful or hideous, but the quality of tending to me as I read is what motivates me to champion a writer.

Have you ever based a character on someone from real life? And did you tell them?

All characters are some composite of real and a mosaic of what we know. I have used bits of my life in my work, but there is no one character that equals one person from my circle. I would suggest it is not a good idea to tell someone a character is modelled after them as this might entangle them in legal issues.
When you were a kid, what did you want to do/who did you want to be when you grew up?

Wonder Woman! I think I am working on it right now. :)

Would you say that your dreams have come true or are you still working on them?

Dreams are always just ahead. Without that horizon of opportunity always moving away, we slow our creativity. I am very blessed.

Which book do you wish you had written?

Sound and The Fury, by William Faulkner.

Which three authors would you like to take to the pub?

I’m picking three American writers who are no longer alive, because I could sit down with those who are still here - Mourning Dove (Christal Quintasket), William S Burroughs and Emily Dickinson. We will need to have numerous bottles of Glendronach 33-year-old single malt and many bottles of Chateau Petrus 2008 (Pomerol). I assume Emily, Christal and I will drink the most!

Are you published or self-published? What is your experience?

Both. I published poetry, flash fiction and shorts in magazines and hardbound books with small-press publishers. I am happy with self-publishing long-form novels; the advantage to having an in-house editor, in-house legal and the brand name on the inside of the cover seems diminished for myself. Poetry and short fiction requires a publisher as the audience is very small.

There is comfort, power and prestige in having a Big Six Publisher. Since I do not have a big list of novels published, but have three long-form works finished or nearly completed, it makes sense to me to hire an editor, and print and e-publish on my own. I have already gone through the learning curve of formatting, I can write some HTML5, and I have the artistic skills to make cover art that is distinguishing and still attractive. There is an advantage in being able to make creative choices, but a downside in not having all the support a publisher brings. If another publisher wanted to take me on, it would take fifteen months to get the work to market.

Unless a book can sell 20,000 copies, a Big Six publisher won’t spend the marketing dollars that will make an author’s work succeed financially. It is a business.

How do you find the marketing experience?

I have fun in my marketing. I measure results. If you have a posse of others that you support, you will find it enjoyable. In the art of writing, we put our hearts and soul into the work, then marketing we stand up and wait for the beating.

Marketing is like the review process on Amazon or Barnes and Noble has become – somewhat brutal. There are individuals who are ready to rip you apart for the own puffing of their ego. A strange dynamic happens on the internet, where persons feel they can act malicious and it makes them feel good. I don’t understand that human quality that needs to tear others down. If anyone needs help or free advice, I am available.

What advice would you give other writers just starting out?

Write. Practice your craft. Make a one-year, five-year and ten-year plan.

Do you have a blog? What do you blog about?

I was a blogger in secret on Blogit in the very early years of blogging because I worked in an industry where I worried there would be repercussions. In 2008, I switched to a public blog. I publish short fiction, poetry photographs and digital video of my work on the blog. My blog -is a warm-up for writing. The poetry on the blog is usually about current events and my daily life. (Poetry about the news you say, Caroline, - yes?) I also post writing advice and reviews of friend’s work.

What other hobbies do you have?

Pets: dogs, turtles, pigmy goats, horses and cattle.
Filmmaking, photography, painting, hiking, running, gardening (organic vegetables and flowers), bird watching, swimming, weights and hot Yoga.

What would you like to achieve in the next five years?

Six more novels that are great. See my son and daughter in college. Stay healthy and fit. Pay my mortgage down 30%. Maintain a life of prayer and spirituality. And help 20 people to change their lives to find their pathway.

If you won the Lotto or a major publishing contract, what would you do with that dosh?

Lotto – keep writing; keep marketing my work; hire a public relations firm to organise campaigns; hire an editor away from a Big Six agency; buy a Canon C300 and great lenses; buy trinkets for my children; and save most of it.

Major publishing contract: that’s a harder one. I would ask them to keep half to spend on advertising and marketing my work. Stay the same course I am on.



  1. Very entertaining interview . I like the part about marketing and Amazon. Thanks for sharing.

  2. @ Ey Wade As writers we put our story up to share and open to the universe. Perhaps I ought to be happy they are reading even if they are 'hatin. ??? I am growing and getting better.

  3. Absolutely the intervie is intersting.

  4. Found you at last. When I clicked on your gravatar it brought me to your wordpress blog which has been marked private. So, that's where I went.

    It's interesting to read the journey of writers. I like her answer to your question of what she would like to achieve in the next five years "... help 20 people to change their lives to find their pathway."

    1. Thanks for hunting me down :) I checked the gravatar and altered it so it should now take people to, which is a site I just set up for the Kiwi books. Thanks for pointing it out.

      Glad everyone enjoyed reading the interview. Happy reading and writing :)

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Thanks for commenting - have a kitty cool day! :)